Last week’s events have shed light on several issues, including the dynamics of U.S.-Canadian relations, global international trade, and the American presidency. The past and the present continue to communicate with each other as media and other propaganda systems try to force us to focus on their current debates. They impose the agenda as historic events unfold.
The death of George H.W. Bush resurfaced many historical events that happened during his long public career. I was personally reminded of his tenure as vice president and later on as president (1981-1989 / 1989-1993), because these were the crucial years of the Cold War, the First Gulf War, the U.S. invasion of Panama, and the intensification of the Drug War in the Americas. Media, at a time when it was not as polarized as it is today, was tough on his administration; they scolded him for increasing taxes and folding on his “read my lips: no more taxes” phrase, as well as the First Gulf War.
Media in the American “left” never liked him or his son, therefore it was surprising to see, read, and listen to them romanticize about George H.W. Bush. It seemed as if the past had never happened; as if all had been erased from the collective minds of American and global citizens. He was treated like a hero, which for many he was, when in life his political career was bashed by NPR and the likes.
The death of our Forty-First President became a tremendous propaganda opportunity to juxtapose the traditional seasoned politician against the business-person-turned-president; the “true republican” against the “populist.” Media had a blast reminding the public about the moral high standard and values of the “classic politician” and the dangers behind populism. I am surprised they did not go as far as highlighting the difference between traditional wealth and the nouveau riche.
The compassionate against the ruthless president, the strategist against the improvisor, the rational against the irrational, morality against immorality, and the free trader against the protectionist/mercantilist. Media seems to have forgotten or were willing to contradict their views on the George H.W. Bush of the 1980s and the early 1990s. The collective amnesia, like the Chileans with Pinochet, purposely forget the general political immorality of the 1980s and 1990s.
Media was not the only one that capitalized on the death of George H.W. Bush. Canadians jumped on the occasion to take on a crucial role in last week’s ceremonies. Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney delivered an eulogy that reminded the Trump administration about the importance of the Western alliance and the exclusive relationship with Canada. It is true that Bush and Mulroney were close, but to have him take on a leading role in the domestic ceremony represented an important score for the Canadians; reminding the current administration about the importance of the rejuvenated free trade agreement and shared environmental initiatives such as the Clean Air Act. Ultimately, Mulroney’s words reminded the world about the importance of calm and serene leadership in this new era of polarity and instability.
The strategic presence of Canada during this very American moment revealed the interconnectivity between the two nations/markets. At a time of tremendous bilateral tensions, Mulroney’s presence reminded Americans and the world about the long-term bilateral interdependence that traces back to the Reciprocity Agreement of 1854. Ultimately his presence reminded the public about the harmonious and civilized relationship that traditionally united both nations, juxtaposing it to the confrontational and dysfunctional character of todays bilateral relationship.
Justin Trudeau’s decision to arrest the Chief Financial Officer of the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, was also a symbolic diplomatic gesture intended to remind the Trump administration, just like Mulroney did with his eulogy, that the Canadian – US relationship is worth much more than its current market value. The interdependence constructed since 1854, when the two economies began a long-term process of dismantling trade barriers, cannot be destroyed without altering the dynamics of local, regional, and global markets. The intricate social, economic, political, and cultural interconnectivity has become the core economic engine of economies like Maine’s that depend more on the Canadian than the American market.
Perhaps the incidents from last week may clarify to the current administration that the trade threat is not coming from Canada or Mexico but from China. This emerging economic power is the common threat to the Western economies. Canada’s actions against Meng Wanzhou revealed the level of cooperation between Western economies and its effectiveness. A stronger alliance with Canada and the other Western economies is the only way to confront the challenges of this emerging economic threat.
If China is to be controlled, if their business practices are to be molded to the interests of the West, then it is through Western cooperation that this may be successfully achieved. Distancing ourselves from Canada and the rest of our partners will weaken our position at the negotiating table. Negotiating as a Western bloc only enhances our negotiating power. This was something that was very clear in the mind of George H.W. Bush, and that is perhaps why its legacy shined during this past week of national self-reflection. Back then, “America was Great” because its Western allies empowered it to assume its position as global leader; today that is not the case.
The fact that countries like New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain, Canada, Italy, and Germany banned Huawei’s services shows the influential power of the Western alliance. Perhaps the outcomes of this past week will convince the current administration that the West is strong as a bloc. This was the case in World War One, World War Two, and the Cold War. Therefore, as we face the challenges of Russia and China, we must remember the collective strategy that made us strong and the isolationist tactics that made other weak.
Russia, China and others that want the West to fail know that the only road to success is through the breakup of the alliance. Watching the implosion of Great Britain, France, Germany, and the United States must be rewarding for Putin, Erdogan, and Xi Jinping.
The death of George H.W. Bush may spark new energy that may refresh the collective minds of Americans, bringing back trust and confidence on the Western alliance and away from the rhetoric of fixed-term politicians. Bush’s public life reminded us that the leader of the super power of the world must have a steady hand, composure, and commitment to a clear-cut long-term vision that secures our privileged position within the global market system. Mulroney reminded us of that in his eulogy. Unfortunately today we have no long-term plan, no strategy, no direction.
* CityTV. December 3, 2018. Accessed December 12, 2018. https://www.bttoronto.ca/2018/12/03/brian-mulroney-remembers-george-h-w-bush-as-a-great-friend-of-canada/
 India and Japan have also raised concerns about the impact of the Chinese company on issues of national security; for more information see “Why are Countries Banning Huawei?” Aljazeera, December 7, 2018, accessed December 14, 2018. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/12/countries-banning-huawei-181206130850129.html